Don’t Tap The Glass

Lauren had never known the world before the animals were in cages. She couldn’t decide if that made her lucky or unlucky. She certainly liked the compulsory trips, from the final giraffe to the last few tropical fish. 

Her Mum told her they used to have ice cream stalls and restaurants. Now guards patrolled past the ‘Don’t Tap The Glass’ signs, the attractions warping into monsters on their face masks. 

One cage contained a large viewing window, behind which lay a depressed mandrill, curled round a pile of clean hay. Someone told Lauren on every occasion that it was the very last one.

The creature was so still that Lauren convinced herself that the reason she knocked on the glass was to check it was alive. Her tiny knuckles hit the pane three times, and the primate raised one hairy ear. 

A red light the size of an egg popped to life above the cage. A hand dragged Lauren towards a pair of donkeys, one with only three legs.

The next afternoon Lauren sat cross-legged in front of the telly, watching archive footage of herds of antelopes storm across Africa. She was eating cereal, and almost didn’t hear the knocks at the window. They soon increased to the volume of a drum. 

She looked up. Behind the pane was a man in a rented mandrill suit, the fur blotchy and blue nose made out of cardboard. He never stopped tapping, even when his fingers bled. 

Her parents came in when the glass cracked. They stood in the doorway in their pyjamas, ashamed. Though they hated to admit it, she deserved every beat.